20 years of loving summer camp by Douglas Haines

To say summer camp has a special part in my heart only begins to do justice to what i feel. 20 continuous years on camp tell you I became an addict.  At first as a monitor/counselor it was about being outside doing sports and bonding with the children. Later as a coordinator it became about creating spectacular activities and evening entertainments, then as a Camp Director it was about the buzz of making it all come together no matter what. However it has been as  Director of Language Camps that my mission in life was revealed.

There is only one feeling that i have encountered that is more inspiring than educating a child to be a better version of them-self and that is motivating other staff to believe wholeheartedly in that mission. The most soul inspiring moments in my life have happened when the people I trained put into action those skills and attitudes and committed to making sure children had a summer of a lifetime. To lead, motivate and develop people in the skills needed to educate children is quite simply a wonderful thing.

Summer Camp offers individuals the chance to develop in ways you just can’t comprehend until you’re on that journey.  The fact all staff share the honorable goal of looking after and educating children offers an unique framework to bond together with a shared “purpose”. With this security of knowing you do something that matters, the opportunity for professional and personal development is limitless. The development i have seen of individual children and of staff during a summer (and over many) is quite simply incredible. As one parent put it: summer camp can and does “mark the life” of those it touches.

So when someone asks me why have i worked 20 years on summer camp? Although my thoughts and emotions are numerous, my logic is clear: “I’m addicted to the feeling of pride and accomplishment i get from playing my part in creating an environment which does really make both children and staff better people”. Staff and children who are validated in their sense of worth, who have hidden talents revealed and nourished. Staff and children who want to be kinder and nicer versions of themselves.

Summer Camp is a place where you can find a purpose, a place where you can become a better person and most inspiring of all it is a place where you can help others to believe more in them-self.

Douglas Haines

Director of TECS Language Camps

Read more on development and leadership in 100 steps to inspirational leadership.

Why I work on summer camp

Hey, for anyone who doesn’t know me my name is Patrick Alvarez and I’m the Assistant Director of TECS Summer Camps (Programme, Staffing, and Structure) – I know right? What a mouthful! I like to just say I’m the Assistant Director of Summer Camps Pss….. What that means is that I’m the one who works all year round planning our summer camps, the activity programmes, etc. I am also the one who is responsible for the recruitment of up 200 summer camp staff.

Obviously this blog isn’t about me, but I thought as a first blog post I’d introduce myself, what I do, and why I got into summer camp work!

When I was a kid I went to a few summer camps (Not TECS ones, other ones). I think I went to Camp Rockwell, some tennis camp, and a random camp in Riaza to “name” a few. I was always one of those kids who wanted to go away from home, and I think my parents must have been happy to ship me off to camps/family/exchanges/anything-that-would-get-me-out of the house.

However, I’d never really thought about working on a summer camp but when I was a student in my final year in school and looking for something to do in the summer one of the Spanish students there (thanks Peps Moreno!) told me about TECS. He’d actually been a camper, crew member, and camp monitor on the summer camps. He sold it to me by saying that I’d have an awesome summer in the sunny south of Spain, you’ll meet loads of great people and have a really fun job. So work in a shop in rainy Ireland or get a job on a summer camp in Spain? Easy decision.

That summer I worked as an assistant monitor for one month in July and I honestly had THE BEST SUMMER EVER!! Not only did I meet a whole pile of new people, great kids, had loads of craic (fun for you non-Irish people), some of the most randomly hiliarious moments, but I also got so much out of it personally and professionally. At the time I was an 17/18 year old teenage boy about to go to university to study engineering and whose sole focus was himself. Something magical happened that summer which I can’t quite explain….. Working on TECS Summer Camps that first summer in 2008 changed something inside me, and sparked some sort of desire within me to not be such a selfish self-centered teenager, but it drove me to want to be a better person. I know a bit weird sounding but you have to experience it!

Anyway long story short I was hooked! Working on summer camp has become some sort of drug! I returned to work on camp every summer while at university, each year moving up: monitor, assistant coordinator, activity coordinator and then camp director. TECS obviously saw something special in me and wanted to keep promoting me, and then eventually asked me to join their year round team when I finished my degree to do what I do now. I’m the luckiest person in the world to be able to work on summer camp all of the time.

If you’ve never worked on a summer camp you MUST do it at least once! Put on it on your bucket list! It’s the experience of a lifetime, it’s so much fun, and it might just make you a better person.